While the cute retro styling will be given a subtle evolution, the interior will undergo a much more dramatic transformation, with a large central touchscreen to replace buttons.
To help boost the appeal of the 500 in the US – its biggest global market – the newcomer will be wider and longer than at present, which will improve interior space and stretch the proportions for a sportier profile.
Our images, based on inside information, show how larger oval headlights, framed by an LED ring, and oversized tail-lamps will emphasise the extra width, while rubbing strips give a tougher look.
According to our sources, the new 500’s design has been set in stone for a while now, but Fiat has been in no rush to replace the current car – introduced seven years ago – when sales are still going so well.
In 2013, the 500 was Europe’s top-selling city car, edging Fiat’s Panda into second place in the chart, with 160,015 finding homes. The VW up! and Vauxhall Adam trailed by 30,000 and 115,000 sales respectively.
The hi-tech new interior – shown in our detailed rendering – takes its inspiration from the 2004 Trepiuno concept. This is the car that previewed the modern 500, three years before it went on sale. As you can see, the only buttons are for the automated manual gearbox; all others will have their functionality integrated into a large central touchscreen.
The instrument cluster will also be replaced by a full TFT screen, so only the most relevant information is shown at any given time. But the new 500 won’t forget its roots – touches like the full-width colour dash insert retain that retro Italian flavour.
Unlike MINI, which plans to add a five-door hatchback to the new three-door later this year, Fiat will offer the new 500 as a three-door only. But as we reported in December, a larger five-door hatch with 500 styling cues will be introduced in 2015.
This new model will replace the Punto in the line-up, and will sit on a modified version of that car’s platform. It will line up alongside the 500, 500C, 500L, 500 MPW and imminent 500X crossover – as well as the Abarth 500 to form a seven-strong range.
Under the bonnet, the new 500 isn’t likely to stray far from the current car’s range, although all engines will get more power and extra efficiency. The 1.3-litre Multijet diesel’s CO2 emissions should dip below 90g/km, although the star of the show will still be the charismatic 0.9-litre two-cylinder TwinAir, offered in several outputs, up to 105bhp.
Fiat faces a big challenge to repeat the current 500’s success, though. It will help if it can keep the entry-level price around the £10,000 mark (that’s about £1,500 less than the cheapest Adam), but competition in this class is fierce.
The new Hyundai i10 has just gone on sale, while other talented rivals due this year include the new Citroen C1, Toyota Aygo and Peugeot 108 plus the new Renault Twingo, which apes the Fiat 500's styling.